June 25, 2008 posted by


This morning I overslept on purpose. Yesterday, I spent a good part of my work day researching sleep and, after what I’d found, getting back in bed seemed smart instead of lazy.

Most people, especially athletes, appreciate the importance of sleep. The greatest cyclist in history, Eddie Merckx, once said, “the Tour is won in bed,” and our own seven time Tour winner once credited his organization that gave him an extra hour in bed each night as the biggest improvement he’d made in his race prep. Athletes are probably the biggest proponent of napping who are no longer infants. When your life depends on recovering from exercise, being asleep is almost always preferable to being awake.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t the one writing a sleep article yesterday. I was doing a news piece and Joe was writing on sleep. But, serendipitously, I ended up having a hard time finding good health headlines that weren’t about sleep. In the last two weeks, four studies on sleep have hit the wires. Since we didn’t run them because we already had a sleep article, I’ll post them here.

The first three all focused on college students. Two independent studies showed that it helped with better grades. In one, the difference wasn’t the amount of time slept but the difference between those who studied in the morning vs those who studies at night. Turns out your brain works better when you first wake up. Logical, since you recover as you sleep. The third was a study on female depression and sleep and, as you may have guessed, those who slept better were far less likely to have mental issues.

Finally–as if we needed it–another study was published showing how much sleep helps athletes recover. When you’re asleep your body releases different hormones than when you’re awake. There are five stages of sleep and it’s imporant that you hit each one as many times as possible. The more you rest the quicker you recover. If you can sleep enough it can be like taking steroids. In fact, dreaming about taking steroids might be as effective as the real thing.

When you’re training harder you dream more. I’m a big dreamer. So big, in fact, that some people think the alternate world I sleep in is weird. There are places I visit so much in dreams that I often forget they aren’t real. I’ve developed entire climbing areas in my dreams and have frequented some of them many many times. These places are so vivid that when I’m considering where to climb I’ll often consider them until I catch myself and realize they don’t exist. It’s pretty cool because I get to live two seperate lives: one when I’m awake and one when I’m asleep.

Anyway, throughout the winter, when I wasn’t training much, my dreams were blank. I either didn’t dream or didn’t remember what I’d dreamt. Since I’ve begun this round of X, and especially lately doing doubles most days, all of these places have come back. So not only does exercise make my real life better, it gives me an entire other life to play in as well. Now that I think about it, I wonder which Tour Eddie Merckx was referring to?

pic: Romney and Bartleby get fitter.

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